‘With our thoughts we make the world’ – Shakyamuni Buddha
For the last few weeks, Gilets Jaunes or the ‘Yellow Vests’ protests are rocking France. It’s a spontaneous apolitical citizens’ movement of both right and left affiliations – largely coming from smaller towns and rural areas – which have united using social media, and represent France that struggles to make ends meet, and whose lives are getting crippled with rising costs, and the neoliberal policies of President Emmanuel Macron who is decried as the ‘President of the rich’. ‘Macron, resign’ is the yellow vest slogan that is now reverberating across rural and urban France.
The best article to understand the finer details of the French insurrection – that is now spreading to other European countries – is Diana Johnstone’s illuminating Yellow Vests Rise Against Neo-Liberal ‘King’ Macron.
Johnstone says, ‘Macron was the rabbit magically pulled out of a top hat, sponsored by what must be called the French oligarchy.’ She goes on to explain, ‘The mission assigned to him by his sponsors was clear. He must carry through more vigorously the “reforms” (austerity measures) already undertaken by previous governments, which had often dawdled at hastening the decline of the social State.’
In another news related to neoliberalism, an excerpt from a book by the new Leftist President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López – published in Jacobin Magazine titled Privatization Is Theft – begins by saying, ‘In terms of our collective wellbeing, the politics of pillage has been an unmitigated disaster. In economic and social affairs, we’ve been regressing instead of moving forward. But this is hardly surprising: the model itself is designed to favor a small minority of corrupt politicians and white-collar criminals. The model does not seek to meet the needs of the people, or to avoid violence and conflict; it seeks neither to govern openly nor honestly. It seeks to monopolize the bureaucratic apparatus and transfer public goods to private hands, making claims that this will somehow bring about prosperity. The result: monstrous economic and social inequality.’
Both in France and Mexico, in fact, everywhere on the planet, including India, effects of Neoliberalism – from a wide spectrum of characteristics – are creating socio-economic havoc.
Hence, it becomes essential to understand – in a language of common usage – what is Neoliberalism?
The goal of the essay is to answer the vital question and bring to light a universal Neoliberal Template that is now being imposed all over the world by the ruling establishments, largely, through cunning, deception, coercion and authoritarianism.
In the 21st century the debate isn’t about capitalism and communism. That debate is over, outdated and has been historically settled in favour of capitalism or market economy, characterised by a mix of public and private sector enterprises (in varying proportions in various countries) and the transnational movement of global finance.
Not only the democratic Nordic model – a welfare state with unionised workforce – followed by the Scandinavian countries, is a thriving market economy, even the communist/‘one party’ model like China and Vietnam have developed thriving market economies with the free flow of global finance.
In other words, every nation on earth – either a democracy or a communist country – is a capitalist market economy (with varying degrees of ‘free trade’ and ‘protectionism’).
Through the turbulent and violent history of 20th century – marked by the struggle between capitalism and communism – market economy eventually emerged as victorious.
Only exception to this situation is the old styled Communist regime of North Korea. But that country too is in the process to expand socio-economic ties with South Korea and China, and move gradually towards a system of a more open market.
Market economy has become the default-setting of all political models: Monarchy, Nordic model, Communist/One-party model, Duopoly to Multi-party political systems, Presidential democracy and Parliamentary democracy.
But the debate about the fairest and the most efficient economic system is far from over. The 20st century debate – between capitalism and communism – has evolved, and has sailed into new waters.
In the 21st century, the debate and the struggle are now between neoliberalism and socialism within the default-setting of a market economy.
In other words, the battle is not between capitalism and communism, it is between neoliberal market economy and socialist market economy.
What is Neoliberalism?
In the short lucid essay about the origin of Neoliberalism, The Neoliberal Tale, Vittor Mellow writes, ‘It is well known that during the past decades the levels of inequality and wealth concentration have continued to increase in capitalist economies, leading to the arrival of “outsiders” to the established political powers such as Trump in the United States ….a turn to the right all over Latin America, and Brexit.
Neoliberalism, one of the main elements to blame, is better known for the policies that defined the world economy since the 1970s. Faithful devotees like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, in the US and UK respectively, exported a number of their neoliberal policies to low and middle income countries through the Washington Consensus under the pretense that it would bring about development.
Neoliberal policies did not exactly turn out the way their creators envisioned.’
Mellow goes on to point out, ‘The rise of neoliberalism was not spontaneous but rather orchestrated and planned; it was a collective transnational movement to counteract the mainstream of the time; it was originated out of delusion in a period marked by wars, authoritarianism and economic crisis; it was grounded on political affiliations and supported by the dominant ruling class that funded its endeavors and transformed public opinion. These are the roots of what is now the mainstream economic thought.’
Stephen Metcalf’s long-form essay Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world began by citing a published paper by three senior IMF economists that questioned the benefits of neoliberalism. Metcalf writes, ‘The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.’
Characteristics and Symptoms of Neoliberalism
There is nothing liberal about neoliberalism. It was pushed into the world by right wing conservatives as an economic ideology. Neoliberalism is a far right strain of capitalism – with enormous political and socio-cultural consequences – that has come to prevail in our modern world of globalised market economy.
Neoliberalism is also a strange creature: it both a virus and the disease that the virus causes. Like a mutating virus, it has become more virulent in the 21st century. Like a disease, it is identified by certain characteristics and varied symptoms which are not constrained under economics, but spreads everywhere from politics to culture.
A Neoliberal Template has emerged in the 21st century, and this template – created and pushed by the Globalist Financial Elites – is spreading like a pestilence. The salient characteristics of neoliberalism – which vary in intensity in different countries – are as follows:
● Corporatism / Corporatocracy ● Profit Above People ● Subversion of Constitution ● Deregulation ● Centralisation of Power ● Opening Markets to Global Finance and Global Corporations ● Privatisation ● Planned Destruction of Public Sector and Sale of Public Sector Firms to Private Sector ● Funnelling of Natural Resources and Capital into the Hands of the Few ● Plunder of Ecology and Environment ● Austerity / Reduction of Social Welfare ● Formalisation of Economy at the Cost of Unorganised Sector ● Turning Education and Healthcare into Profit Making Sectors ● Corporatisation of Farming Sector ● Financialisation ● Digitalisation ● Cashless Economy / Cashless Society ● Removal of Social and Economic Subsidies ● Technocracy ● Creation of Debt Based Society ● Creation of Orwellian Surveillance and Police State ● Mandatory Smart ID Cards / Micro Chip Implanting ● Loss of Freedom and Civil Liberties ● Creation of Draconian Laws in the Pretext of Enemies / Attack / Danger / Protection / Safety ● Wholesale Consumerism ● Anti-Intellectualism ● Prevalence of Shallow Entertainment ● Glorification of Military and Normalisation of War Mongering ● Turning Press & Media from Watchdog into Lapdog ● Use of Corporate Media, Corporate Think-Tanks, Sponsored Academics, Compromised Intelligentsia and Pet NGOs as Tools of the Establishment / Shadow Establishment ● Ideological Takeover of Critical Institutions and Dilution of their Potency ● Usage of Popular Culture – movies, music, books, awards and recognitions – for Propaganda, Manipulation and Promotion of Establishment / Shadow-establishment Sanctioned Worldview ● Promotion of a Societal Culture that is best described as ‘Exceptionalism and Supremacy of The Powerful’ ● Organised Subversion of Progressive Left, Dissenters, Activists, Whistleblowers and Independent Media ● Assault on Free Speech ● Censorship / Shadow Banning on Social Media ● Manipulation of Algorithms and Internet Search Results ● Marginalisation, Prosecution and Demonization of the Anti-establishmentarian / Anti-shadow-establishmentarian Intelligentsia ● Deliberate Social Engineering Missions – such as Organised Spread of Toxic Hate, Fear, Hysteria and Insecurity – which Harness the Existing Faultiness in a Society To Divide People on Basis of Identity ● Manufacturing of Enemies and Increasing Societal Tensions ● Disempowerment of Citizens ● Creation of Taboo Subjects which Encourage Self-Censorship in Thought and Speech ● Data Collection, Data Analysis and Data Harvesting ● Quickening of the Transfer of Wealth to the 1% ● Increased Inequality ● Increased Concentration of Wealth and Power ● Increased Cost of Living ● Misplaced Priorities / Imbalance in Governmental Spending ● Extractive Taxation ● Stagnant Wages ● Declining Purchasing Power ● Increased Social and Behavioural Problems (Apathy, Substance Abuse, Loneliness Epidemic, Domestic Violence, Deterioration of General Mental Health, Increase of Toxic Relationships et cetera) ● Chronic Fatigue of Living in a Compassionless System That Doesn’t Care About People, but is Obsessed with Numbers and Profit ● Increasing Use of Organised Diversion and Distraction ● Omission of Critical Issues – and even crucial terms such as neoliberalism – from Public Focus and Discussion ● War On Reality / Creation of Simulacra Using Propaganda, Indoctrination, Misinformation, Fake News, Psyops, Mythmaking, Spin and False Flag Events ● Rise in Sociopaths in Power ● Marginalisation and Neglect of Minority Groups, Oppression of the Poor and Slow Strangulation of the Middle Class
The Root of The Neoliberal Malaise
We come to understand that ‘neoliberal agenda’ is the ideology of – what Vittor Melow calls – ‘the dominant ruling class’ that is out to colonise the globe. It is far right capitalism that frames and executes policies through the lens of the un-elected super elites: globalist bankers, financial institutions and allied corporate interests, who have transformed neoliberalism as the tool of the ultra-rich for making policies to benefit the ultra-rich.
After the 2008 Financial Crisis, the private western bankers who caused the crisis, went unpunished and were rewarded by bailouts from the public funds. The biggest corporations also exploit regulation and policy loopholes, and often pay the least taxes. (Most of the profit finds it way to off-shore tax havens, and a monumental chunk of capital gets removed from productive usage, exit from the economies of the countries and this adversely affect welfare and development) That’s why neoliberalism can also be described as ‘compassionate socialism for the 1% and brutal capitalism for the 99%’.
Collusion of corporate power and big finance with political parties has become the most malicious trait of neoliberalism. Politicians act as the middlemen of banking and business interests, and impose policies which benefit their funders and assist profiteering. This has allowed neoliberalism to become a tool of imperialism and neo-colonialism, where unelected western financial and corporate elites take control of a country’s economic policies and natural resources via puppet politicians/compromised political parties and local crony corporates, and get the major chunk of tax payers’ money funnelled to them through dubious deals, covert understandings and governmental contracts at the cost of greater public good and national interest.
Contemporary authors such as Eduardo Galeano and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o – who calls neoliberalism, ‘Capitalist Fundamentalism’ – have shown how neoliberialism has become a tool of imperialism and neo-colonialism in the continents of South America and Africa, where the majority of the people are not benefitting by the economic and social policies of their own governments who have surrendered sovereignty, and are plundering and exploiting the region as the vassals of foreign power (political, corporate, financial institutions and banking).
The economic fate and destiny of many countries are still being decided by a small clique of global power – a transnational feudal entity or a financial oligarchy: the .1% of the 1% – that controls the Empire. Direct colonialism has resurfaced as indirect neo-colonialism.
Economist Utsa Patnaik recently – in a collection of essays published by Columbia University Press – concluded that over roughly 200 years, the East India Company and the British Raj siphoned out at least £9.2 trillion (or $44.6 trillion) from India.
Unless the contemporary Neocolonialism via Neoliberalism is understood, and actions are taken to prevent it, we will have economists in the future who will be pointing out that trillions of dollars were surreptitiously plundered from India at the cost of India’s interests, at a time, when we thought colonialism was a thing of the past.
Even in the high income nations or the so called ‘developed countries’, neoliberalism has taken a massive toll on the local communities and the common people.
To reiterate, what I had pointed out in an earlier essay, in United States of America – the largest economy in the world – the effects of neoliberalism have been most severe: a 2014 study by Princeton University Prof Maryin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin Page concluded that US is an oligarchy, not a democracy, where ‘policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans’ and the will of the average citizens have ‘little or no independent influence on policy at all’; the bankrupt US Government – reeling from trillions of dollars of war machine spending – now has a debt of over 21 trillion dollars and requires over 1 trillion dollars of fresh debt every year to pay the bills; the citizens have lost a lot of civil rights due to the imposition of acts which were devised as an excuse to the ‘global war against terror ‘ and gave birth to the ‘surveillance and police state’; America has the highest incarceration rate in the world; Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur who acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty around the world, has issued a recent scathing critique of America today where he warned that ‘systematic attack on welfare program’ will leave millions deprived of food and healthcare; Opioid Epidemic – deaths due to overdosing on prescription opioids – has become a crisis; 61% of the US citizens don’t have enough savings to cover a $1000 emergency; the 3 richest Americans hold more wealth than bottom 50% of the country; Middle Class is falling farther behind the wealthy and has declined from 61% (1971) to 52% (2016) and a MIT economist Peter Temin concluded in his book The Vanishing Middle Class that 80% of the population is burdened by debt and US has regressed to developing nation status.
Nobel Prize winning American economist Joseph Stiglitz – who is credited with pioneering the concept of the ‘1 per cent’ – warned, “America, I think, should be an important warning to other countries not to take for granted their institutions. I worry that things in the United States could get much worse.”
The big lesson for the developing / growing ‘low to middle income’ countries is that neoliberalism hasn’t only become a thoroughly discredited economic ideology, but it has become a existentialist danger to democracy and its institutions. Along with economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, neoliberalism has also been described by Noam Chomsky, as ‘anti-democratic’. Chomsky concluded, ‘Neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet.’
He says this, because the governments all around the world have increasingly fallen under the control of ‘extra-constitutional forces’ such as globalist bankers and global corporations, who execute their desired policies via the political parties in power.
National interests mean corporate interests, people’s interests just remain a lip service; the policies of ‘higher moral ground’ are propagated, when the real corporate-profiteering agenda behind the policies, remain hidden. Politicians perform as ‘actors’ before the public and largely function as vassals and puppets, whose strings are controlled by their unaccountable elite masters and the feudal plutocrats who remain in the shadows; and democracy is completely sabotaged and subverted by this shadowy pernicious neo-feudalism of the modern 21st century world.
In other words, ‘covert’ plutocracies have replaced ‘overt’ democracies and elite oligarchies have formed due to neoliberalism where private corporations hold more wealth and more influence than many smaller nations of our world.
Due to the anti-democratic aspect of neoliberalism, where the concentration of wealth and decision-making power reside with a handful, the former Greek Finance Minister, economist and writer Yanis Varoufakis – along with Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat – has started a Pan-European political movement in 2015 – DiEM25 – whose aim is to ‘democratise’ Europe by 2025 by restoring the eroded principles of ‘full-fledged democracy’.
Diem25 has recently joined forces with US Senator Bernie Sanders to start a global Progressive International movement to fight neoliberalism, amongst other goals, as the ‘grassroots movement for global justice’.
In the recent years, due to the rise of the far right – amidst the growing disenchantment with the failures of the liberal political parties – neoliberalism has taken a more authoritarian and fascist undertones.
Chris Hedges in his essay Neoliberalism’s Dark Path to Fascism writes, ‘Neoliberalism transforms freedom for the many into freedom for the few. Its logical result is neofascism. Neofascism abolishes civil liberties in the name of national security and brands whole groups as traitors and enemies of the people. It is the militarized instrument used by the ruling elites to maintain control, divide and tear apart the society and further accelerate pillage and social inequality. The ruling ideology, no longer credible, is replaced with the jackboot.’
Dante Alighieri pointed out, ‘From a little spark may burst a flame’; and the flame can only burst out in the world, when the flame in the heart alights. The much of the rising popularity of the anti-establishmentarian progressive political movements in the West led by the ‘social democrats’ – Yanis Varoufakis (Europe), Jeremy Corbyn (UK) and Bernie Sanders (USA) – is due to the flame of awareness in the hearts of the people – especially the young – about the hellish injustices of neoliberalism, perpetrated by the global ruling elites.
The social democrats in a democracy, are not out to replace market economy with a state controlled Communist system, but are out to bring back pro-people balance in a market economy.
The balance has now tilted totally in favour of the ultra-rich / corporatocracy, and needs to brought back towards the interests of the people: the poor, the working class and the middle class.
The hysterical and diversionary focus on the ‘left versus right’ cultural politics needs to be replaced by politics focussed on the social and economic factors.
Progressive Left politics in the West – amongst many issues – are also demanding the end of ‘perpetual war’ / militarism, ‘de-privatisation / re-nationalisation of crucial services and sectors’, ‘free public education and affordable healthcare’, ‘breaking of the big banks’ and ‘reforms in the global financial system’ to free the world from the ‘tyrannical control of Big Finance’.
Progressive millennials are constantly writing against the privatised ‘Corporate Totalitarianism’ / ‘New World Order’ that is subverting national sovereignty, diluting democracy and killing peace for the mindless – and almost psychopathic – pursuit of greater private control, private profit and even private geopolitical goals, at the cost of the planet, and much of humanity.
In the recent times, the battle is escalating between the forces of ‘pro-people anti-establishment sovereign socialist market economy’ and ‘pro-corporate pro-establishment anti-sovereign neoliberal market economy’.
Even in the list of Gilets Jaunes demands that is circulating on social media (see photo) we find anti-corporatism, anti-oligarchy and anti-elitism demands such as ‘France’s constitution to be written “by the people and for the interests of the people”’; ‘make banks smaller’; ‘lobbying to be banned’; ‘break up media monopolies and halt cosy relationship between media and political class’; ‘open media to the people’; ‘limit power of pharmaceutical companies’; ‘ban GM foods’; ‘pull France out of Nato and foreign wars’; ‘end the plunder of French-speaking Africa’ and so on.
Amidst the present socio-economic and political upheavals in the West, death-knell of neoliberalism has already been sounded. The resistance is growing everywhere against the Neoliberal Template. The people in the ‘democratic’ world are realising with bitterness that those whom we bring to power through our votes are doing whatever it takes to make us more powerless. Political leaders are propped up, marketed and sold to the people by shadow oligarchies, and they fail the people, again and again. Elected governments don’t fight the actual problems, but start to fight the people to control dissent.
But the way things are shaping up, we can expect transformative change or a paradigm shift in the US, and the neoliberal West, in the near future, within a decade, at most. Neoliberalism – also known as ‘Late Capitalism’ – will terminate, and give away to ‘social democracy in a market economy’, and the democratic world will begin to resemble the socially responsible Nordic model, than the financial oligarchy driven extreme Neoliberal model of United States of America.
But whether this shift will come through the youthful progressive movements or a chaotic economic collapse triggered by monumental debt, or both, or through violent insurrections or through an unexpected ‘black swan’ event, that time will only tell.
But right now we have entered a most challenging period where authoritarianism is sharply spiking to implement the Neoliberal Template and to create / entrench Deep State Democracies where unelected plutocrats control elected leaders, and impose totalitarian pro-rich dystopian neoliberal policies upon the people.
In this situation, when freedom, truth and sovereignty are in danger, if liberalism has to return to defeat the right wing populism / nationalism / theo-nationalism, then it has to do so by riding the wave of progressivism / progressive politics and discard / dismantle the ‘state-corporate totalitarianism’ of neoliberalism – the root cause of our age of anger, turmoil and discontent.
[The views expressed belong solely to the author, and may not reflect the opinions of the editorial team]